Niang Kim (right), 8, helps Esther Mupanza, 5, during lessons at Proskuneo, a music school in Clarkston that provides free lessons every Saturday morning on a variety of instruments for refugee children. Attendance for the Saturday morning Free for All can sometimes get as high as 70 kids. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Clarkston’s Proskuneo School of the Arts brings music to all

While most kids are watching Saturday morning cartoons, dozens of children in Clarkston are taking music classes. Some may still be groggy as they climb to the third floor of the Clarkston International Bible Church, but they are soon awakened by melodies that provide a new, universal language of love.

Clarkston is a city known for many different languages and for providing a chance at a new life for immigrants and refugees. Among such a variety of cultures, nonprofit Proskuneo School of the Arts was born to bring all nations together through worship and musical training. Proskuneo, Greek for “worship,” hosts multilingual, multicultural worship gatherings, but reaches the most children through its School of the Arts. For over five years, the school has offered one-on-one private lessons as well as a chance for all kids from the Clarkston community, and beyond, to try their hand at music.

Adam Payton teaches piano to a group of children at Proskuneo, a music school in Clarkston that provides free lessons every Saturday morning on a variety of instruments for refugee children. Besides the Free for All sessions on Saturday mornings, the school offers group classes and private instruction in dance, guitar, art, piano, drums, violin and singing. BRANDEN CAMP / SPECIAL
Photo: For the AJC

From 9-11 a.m. each Saturday, Proskuneo invites kids to a music time called Free for All to try out an assortment of instruments ranging from piano to ukulele, guitar to drums. It’s a chance for kids to test-drive instruments before taking lessons, or simply enjoy music, games and friendship on Saturday mornings.

Josh Davis, founder of Proskuneo School of the Arts, leads a multiethnic worship team. He is a songwriter, ordained minister and music missionary. Davis, who refers to himself as third-culture, grew up in the Dominican Republic as a missionary kid and later served as a missionary there. He started his music ministry over 15 years ago as a worship leader. When Davis desired to bridge multicultural and multilingual worship, it was only fitting that he and his family would move to his wife’s hometown of Clarkston and raise their children in the middle of a beautifully diverse community.

David Bentley teaches a group of girls a chord on the guitar during Free for All music lessons at Proskuneo, a music school in Clarkston that provides free lessons every Saturday morning on a variety of instruments for refugee children. Free for All lets the kids try their hand at music. BRANDEN CAMP / SPECIAL
Photo: For the AJC

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Davis spoke with a variety of different community leaders, including former pastor Phil Kitchin of Clarkston International Bible Church, and asked for their thoughts on the value of adding a music ministry to the community.

“Developing a music school was something we thought we could do, but we didn’t even suggest the idea. We waited for the community members to tell us what they thought, and they confirmed we were thinking in the right direction,” Davis said.

Fourteen-year-old Johann Lozada from Norcross joined Proskuneo four years ago with Free for All. After attending the Saturday morning lessons, Johann quickly desired to take more specific classes for piano. Now he has a standing appointment for private lessons at 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays, something he takes very seriously. Over the years, Johann has had three different teachers at Proskuneo, and each has offered him a new perspective on how to approach the piano.

“Proskuneo not only teaches music, but the love of Christ. They are a good example for my kids because they volunteer to do this,” said Johann’s mother, Adriana Lozada Cadena. “We can’t afford professional instructions because it would be a lot more money. Every time I see a parent that can’t pay tuition due to high costs, I tell them to come here, not only because it’s low cost, but because you feel loved here.”

JT Lewis (top) gives Prince Babonye, 11, a drum lesson at Proskuneo, a music school in Clarkston that provides free lessons every Saturday morning on a variety of instruments. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
Photo: For the AJC

Private lessons at Proskuneo are $25 for one hour, often cheaper than at other music institutes. The school is currently offering group classes and private instruction in dance, guitar, art, piano, drums, violin and singing from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and from 3-7 p.m. Mondays.

Fadi Alsayar, director of Proskuneo School of the Arts, remembers when Johann first started attending Proskuneo. “You look at him and realize he is a kid, but he’s not a kid. You feel he is a gentleman. He seriously wants to learn music,” Alsayar said.

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If Johann is a gentleman, then Alsayar is a child who never grew up. As director of the music school, he runs the weekly Free for All Saturday morning sessions with lightness and fun. Even though Alsayar may be wearing a red clown nose or poking fun during Scripture reading time, the children deeply respect him and rarely get too boisterous — unless they are cheering on their teammates in one of Alsayar’s creative games.

Linzi Prpich teaches a group of young girls dance at Proskuneo, a music school in Clarkston that provides free lessons every Saturday morning on a variety of instruments for refugee children. Proskuneo’s other programs include dance and art. BRANDEN CAMP / SPECIAL
Photo: For the AJC

Alsayar has been with Proskuneo from the beginning, when they started with 11 kids back in 2012. Now attendance for Free for All can sometimes get as high as 70 kids. During the week, a total of 150 kids come through the doors for both Free for All and private lessons. “All of those kids have parents who trust in us to educate their kids with music the right way. They like to bring the kids here,” he said.

It is easy to trust in a music professional like Alsayar, who not only has an extensive background with teaching music, but also with engaging the refugee community. Prior to directing Proskuneo School of the Arts, Alsayar was a music minister in Damascus, Syria, and led a music institute that engaged Iraqi refugees — similar in almost every way to Proskuneo. When he moved to the United States in 2011, he had no idea that a new life full of change and uncertainty could also include his past passion.

“I didn’t think I would be in the same space after 10 years,” Alsayar said, “but God prepared me to be with kids there before I came here.”

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Proskuneo School of the Arts may be a music school, but Alsayar knows it’s so much more. Proskuneo is a place for students like Johann to find passion and drive and simply surround themselves with things that bring joy. “Believe me when I say I like the smell of the instruments,” Alsayar said. “Being in the room with pianos and guitars — these things make me happy.”

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